replacing the number plates with those from an almost identical vehicle
Sometimes one car is given the identity of another by replacing the number plates with those from an almost identical vehicle - same make, model and colour.
If you are unfortunate enough to 'buy' a cloned vehicle then you will lose both the car and any money paid for it so it's important check out any car you're thinking of buying carefully and to walk away if you suspect anything may be wrong.
Cloning is done either to mask the true identity of a stolen vehicle or, more basically, to avoid parking tickets, speeding fines, congestion charges and the like – the 'ticket' would be sent to the keeper of the vehicle from which the identity was stolen.
Number plates may be physically stolen or purchased from unscrupulous suppliers in which case the thieves don't ever have to touch the car being cloned.
If your number plates are stolen or you start to get parking tickets or fines for places you've not been then it's important to report it to the police/authorities straight away.
If you're buying a used car, be particularly wary of anything being sold without a V5C registration document and service history (garage bills etc.) consistent with the vehicle's age.
Even with a V5C you need to be wary as these can be forged and should not be considered absolute proof of who 'owns' the vehicle.
DVLA started issuing new look red V5Cs from late 2010 and by the end of September 2012 there should be no legitimate blue V5C registration documents still in circulation.
Check through all documents to make sure they tell a consistent story and that documents match the vehicle. Consider getting the car professionally inspected for peace of mind.
The AA Car Data Check can offer protection against buying a cloned car, provided that you buy carefully and follow these rules:
If you follow these rules and the remaining terms and conditions, and you are still unlucky enough to purchase a cloned vehicle, the AA Car Data Check offers cover up to £30,000, as part of its Guarantee.
(updated 19 September 2016)